Passion play 

Hit your mark this year with better red

"If a life of wine, women and song becomes too much, give up the singing."

-- Anonymous

There's something about clinking glasses filled with a red liquid that sets a sexy scene for Valentine's Day. Gazing over a brimming goblet at a lover's face primes us for romance. Assuming these aphrodisiac qualities create the craving, it's no wonder wine historically flies off the shelves during February.

There are many passion-driving qualities wine possesses. Wine makes us giddy with youthful energy; causes us to say sappy things and mean them; magnifies a sensual moment; and makes everything taste better. It's pretty amazing how a thoughtfully chosen bottle of wine can increase the pleasure of a simple Valentine's meal tenfold, no matter what the cost.

For some, pink Champagne is the quintessential Valentine's Day wine, romantic for its tiny stars floating to the top, soft color and rarity. To attain the famous rose color, a small amount of Pinot Noir wine is added at the blending stage after the first fermentation. Not much of this is around, so it's pricier than most sparklers. But a nice bottle of red is equally sensual, with its warming, languorous effect.

But why wine's romantic reputation? There are plenty of theories, but one is that society crafted it so. Wine descriptors are rife with romantic adjectives like silky, smooth and velvety, and winemakers are treated as artists since they pour their heart and soul into each bottle. No other edible item reflects its producer's personality as much as a bottle of wine. But I think it's really that wine gives you that ultra-relaxed, open-to-anything feeling -- a buzz different from most alcoholic beverages.

So whether you're creating a meal or treating that special someone to a night on the town, remember it's not the price that counts, it's the love in the bottle.

Recommended Wines

Justin 2000 Cal Italia ($14) : Smooth-talking Italian grapes like Sangiovese define this yummy light blend from California's Central Coast. The endless black cherry flavor will wiggle its way into your sweetie's heart.

1999 Sterling Three Palms Merlot ($45) : Absolutely fabulous wine that will knock your honey's socks off ... and maybe something else. Sexy, intense fruit -- a cornucopia of flavors with red berries, grapes and plums. Not for the faint of wallet.

Cinnabar 2000 Mercury Rising ($18) : A Bordeaux blend, this fruit-forward, ripe cherry, delicious juice will definitely make the mercury rise. The flavors grab your tongue and don't let go. Truly a bargain.

Liparita Cellars 2001 Sauvignon Blanc ($18) : If your honey prefers whites, here's a Napa Valley beauty that loves food. Loaded with uncharacteristic creaminess, this Sauvignon Blanc has perfectly balanced acids and a melon aroma that will romance anyone.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose Champagne ($38) : A full-bodied, dry and intense French rose Champagne. You can't run from the titillating dried cherry aroma and rich, smooth feeling on your tongue. This one might be suitable for belly-button shots.

Bonny Doon Framboise, Infusion of Raspberry ($12) : For something sweet and fun for your fun sweetie, try this whimsical wine from Bonny Doon. Rich, and chock-full of raspberry essence, this sensational wine is a steal.



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